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Innovations in aviation keep coming up

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Greg Peck
June 18, 2013

Maybe you thought that with NASA having mothballed its space shuttle program, advances in aviation were about done, as well. Not so, according to three fascinating stories I’ve read in the last few days.

The first came in Sunday’s Gazette when The Associated Press reported that Google is launching Internet-beaming antennas into the stratosphere, 12 miles above Earth, aboard giant jelly-fished shaped balloons. The goal of this previously top-secret project, 18 months in the works, is to spread Internet capabilities across the globe, including hard-to-reach locations as Africa and Southeast Asia.

On Monday, I read a Bloomberg News report about a shiny monster called the Aeroscraft. It looks like the world’s largest Mylar balloon and sits in a decommissioned military hangar south of Los Angeles. Because it’s light and can take off and land vertically, this airship could be an energy-efficient way to move big loads to out-of-the-way places without building runways or roads. The Aeroscraft could pack as much as 250 tons of cargo—about three times that of our military’s C-17 transport plane. It could, for example, ferry at more than 100 mph mining equipment to remote spots in Alaska or organic strawberries to Manhattan’s gourmet markets.

Also Monday, I read an AP story about a solar-powered plane that landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington early Sunday. “The spindly one-man craft called Solar Impulse has been flying cross-country in short hops as part of a 13-year privately funded European project.” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the plane’s cutting-edge technology will improve energy use in cars and buildings by leading to better solar cells and batteries, electric motors, lightweight material and general efficiencies.

Obviously, plenty of aviation innovations are in the works. They’re enough, I hope, to inspire future generations of scientists, engineers and inventors. Pay attention, you kids dreaming of discovery.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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